Grinning and Baring
The smiles are what I noticed first. Under tents, over cooking flames, the smiles that come from sharing a story I couldn’t hear spoke to me. And the quiet bustling, getting ready for what the day had in store, reminded me of a little village coming to life in the way they do in storybooks. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” my friend visiting from Ohio said. I said, “Neither have I. It’s beautiful.”
The Saddle Road took us to the village at the turn leading to the summit of Mauna Kea. My thought was to spend some time speaking to folks there and to check things out. But almost as soon as I came upon the village it was clear that it didn’t need anything from me. A friend told me that if I wanted to visit for long, I’d be handed water and sunscreen—that the village would provide for me, not the other way around. And when we saw two protectors, donning gray suits with long coats, holding the flag of a nation yet known, gazing motionless and resolute across The Saddle Road and up the summit, my friend said, “I think those two have this under control.”
We moved on from the village to other parts of the island. Until this trip, I’d never been to Big Island. A number of friends cautioned me about going. They told me to be careful because if I spend too much time there I might want to move there. And only after a few hours I understood why. The tempo and pitch of life there seem more like a warm summer ballad than the up-tempo life many of us know on Oahu.
My friend and I didn’t have any real objectives or places we needed to see. We were happy driving around, stopping occasionally to see something, but mostly talking and catching each other up on our lives. I did want to see a black sand beach, which I had never seen before. So we took the ride to Puna and then to one of the beaches on that side. Down low lava cliffs we trekked to where some of the sunbathers and ocean-goers were gathered. And about halfway down the cliff I noticed what was either a new fashion of flesh-toned bathing suits or folks in the suit their mamma made ‘em. Turned out, it was the latter. Adorable.
There are trips where we don’t stay any one place for very long. Sometimes a place you thought could use a hand is doing fine without you. Sometimes a friend asks us gently if we can move on from a beach baring more than its onyx sand. And sometimes the journey we make across a strip of ocean, over mountains, and through jungles isn’t a trip to see an island at all. Sometimes it’s a trip to know once more the resolute, the childlike, the delicate and wondrous spirit that swirls at the heart of all things. And sometimes it’s just to hug and old friend.
And may it ever be so.
Rev. T. J.